Superhuman: Breaking the barriers of emailing

Superhuman is the perfect example to show how things around us could have a tremendous scope of improvement even in this modern well planned day and age. No one could imagine just how a small change to the emailing interface could bring a disruption in the entire industry forcing users to pay for the service even if it could be obtained for free elsewhere. Read along to know how Team Superhuman banked upon the simplest idea of muscle memory and used it to make an industry-disrupting product.

Emails undoubtedly have become the most commonly used mode of communicating and exchanging information, especially for the corporate world. When Google launched Gmail back in 2004, the email service was a breakthrough for most users. The fluidity and efficiency of the interface were just mind-boggling. But as the years passed by, this same interface seemed dull. With the number of emails that professionals receive in the current day, managing and replying to all of them on time became a tedious task and Gmail & G Suite proved incapable of providing the same level of efficiency to these corporate users.

Rahul Vohra (Founder & CEO Superhuman) identified this problem and set out to address it with his latest venture: Superhuman. Already having built and sold Rapportive(his previous startup) to LinkedIn, he was quite experienced in working with building tools to redefine the emailing experience. Superhuman as Rahul quotes is ‘The Fastest Email Experience Ever Made’. It aims to provide value to the users who spend a vast amount of time of their day browsing emails.

“We’ve built the fastest email experience in the world. Our customers get through their inbox twice as fast as before, get to the emails that matter faster, and many of them see inbox zero for the first time in years — which, as you can imagine, is pretty life-changing,” says Vohra. Superhuman provides tools that help professionals manage, find & reply to relevant emails on time.

Vohra and his team added several features and tools which make Superhuman unique and different from other emailing services available in the market. Superhuman is noticeably faster in every operation including search. The Superhuman team and especially the founder put special efforts in interviewing relevant audiences and including relevant shortcuts into the Superhuman interface.

The whole service is built from the ground up for people who live their life in the inbox, and it shows. “It’s aggressively keyboard-shortcut focused,” Vohra says, as he talks, “You do everything from the keyboard.” Keyboard shortcuts are nothing new, but Superhuman practically shouts at you if you touch your mouse. Want to compose an email? Hit C. Need to CC someone in? Cmd-Shift-C will do that. Need to jump to a labelled email? Cmd-K will bring up a prompt, then just type the label name and hit enter. If you ever think you need to move your mouse to do something, a tooltip will pop up at the bottom explaining how to do it quickly from the keyboard.

Team Superhuman decided to stick with the keyboard-only approach since keyboard tends to be the current fastest way of interacting with the computer and as one starts using particular keystrokes more often, doing the same job becomes more efficient as time passes.

Superhuman makes it easier for individuals to segregate work emails received internally from their team and also emails received from any particular domain or service increasing efficiency in reading through them. It allows users to make snippets and pre-defined commands for actions that they require to make very often thus reducing minutes of work to a matter of seconds.

While most services online are available for free Superhuman took the bold move of becoming a paid email client charging $1 per day for the service. Vohra says, “In the software industry, we have let ourselves fall into the trap of bad business models: of everything being ad-supported.” Further justifying the fee, he argues, “I believe in the most honest and successful business model in the world, and that is: if you value something, you should pay for it. And for our users, it’s incredibly good value. You spend $30 for hours back a week.”

Superhuman as Rahul explains didn’t have a proper go to market strategy but what apparently did the magic for them is a very well written medium article published from Rahul’s own personal page bringing in 10–20 thousand initial users. And being a product as amazing as Superhuman is, word of mouth was enough to scale Superhuman.

Superhuman was never built keeping the masses in mind. It was targeted to the individuals whose inboxes are the most important segments of their work. The reason why individuals would want to pay for the service is how it enables them to swiftly manage emails forcing senders to think how the individual manages to respond well within time to every email. But not everyone would know the secret recipe to become a SUPERHUMAN.

Learn more about Superhuman from Rahul himself by tuning in to the podcast.

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